If you are looking for top unique reasons to visit Rwanda, look no further. We have come up with an ultimate guide for unique reasons, with attractions and activities that you can enjoy when you decide to take a trip to Rwanda.
Although Rwanda is one of the smaller countries in Africa, about 26,338 square kilometers, there is a lot of activities and attraction to attract all types of travelers. The country is landlocked, it is located in the region of the Great Lakes. Its topography was forged by the tectonic activities that created the Western Arm of the Great Rift Valley. Thus the landscape consists of highly elevated scenic rolling hills in the West and Central. This is where the slogan of “Land of a Thousand Hills” is coined. The East and South are covered with sprawling savanna vegetation, ideal for the big grazers and carnivores of the wild. The land is also covered with numerous craters and lava-dammed lakes. With such a varied landscape, there are surely unique things to do in Rwanda when you visit.
1 Gorilla Tracking
Arguably the most unforgettable and exciting of the top reasons to visit not only Rwanda but East Africa in general. Hiking in the African rainforests through the thick vegetation and mountainous gradient may seem overwhelming when you are first introduced to Gorilla tracking, but the effort is well worth it. Nothing can match that amazing moment of coming across a family of gorillas, going through their usual daily activities, just meters from you.
Mountain gorillas are classified as critically endangered by the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. With less than 1000 species remaining in the whole world, these gentle giants are endangered mainly because of conflict in the region and habitat loss. However, with Gorilla conservation efforts and the rise in gorilla tourism, their numbers are steadily growing.
A complex mosaic of montane ecosystems, including evergreen and bamboo forests, open grassland, marsh, and health, may be found in Volcanoes National Park, which is located in Rwanda’s far northwest. This spectacular mountain range is home to the endangered mountain gorilla. The sequence of dormant volcanoes that make up the Virunga Massif—Karisimbi, the highest at 4,507 meters, Bisoke with its lush crater lake, Sabinyo, Gahinga, and Muhabura—are the inspiration for Volcanoes National Park.
The Park is home to twelve completely habituated gorilla groups and a few more families that have been habituated purely for scientific purposes. At least one silverback is present in each family troop, along with a number of juveniles and females. Although the troops’ structure is relatively irregular, they frequently occupy the same general location. Each group is strictly limited to one hour of daily contact with tourists and is closely watched and safeguarded by park officials. The monument of famous gorilla researcher, Dian Fossey can be reached after a 30-minute drive from the park’s administrative building and a two- to three-hour climb through the forest to an elevation of more than 3,000 meters.
Gorilla Tracking is the top unique reason to take a trip to Rwanda.
2 Chimps and other Primates
Apart from the famous mountain gorillas, primate watching is another unique activity and a good reason to visit Rwanda. The most popular places to see chimps are the Nyungwe National Park and the Gishwati Forest. Chimpanzees are social animals that live in large groups and move about constantly in search of food. They also occasionally hunt smaller mammals. Each night, they create brand-new nests in the trees which they abandon each morning as they move to look for food.
Chimpanzee vocalizations echo through the forest as they call to each other in a form of bonding rite, making it typical to hear them before seeing them. They live in large communities of up to 100 individuals but can break into smaller groups as they forage for food. Chancing upon a family of chimps as they go through their typical day in the jungle of Africa is quite a thrill. The excitement is heightened by the fact that they are no barriers between you and them! You don’t have to worry as these chimps have also been habituated to human contact and generally ignore us while they forage for food.
Both Gishwati Forest and Volcanoes National Park host golden monkeys. In the former, there are two groups that can be pursued- one on Mount Karisimbi’s slopes and the other in Mount Sabyinyo’s bamboo forest. The Kinigi headquarters is the starting point for this single excursion, which leaves once daily.
With their distinctive black-and-white coloring and long hair, colobus monkeys make up a special supergroup in Nyungwe and are an absolute paradise for wildlife photographers. Vervets, blue monkeys, Dent’s monkeys, and owl-faced monkeys with beak-like noses can all be found in Nyungwe. Located in Nyungwe and Gishwati Forest, L’Hoest’s monkeys are indigenous to the Albertine Rift. Primate lovers will surely fall in love with this unique activity and will be inspired to consider Rwanda as their next trip to Africa.
3 Cultural Heritage and Attractions
The amazing cultural heritage and attractions are another unique reason to take a trip to Rwanda. Rwanda is a country that gives a high attribute to its cultural heritage and history. Like most of Africa, the past is not well documented in writing or film. However, the traditions, architecture, practices, music, art, storytelling, and gastronomy of the past are still maintained and practiced all over the country. Rwanda attaches great importance to the preservation and promotion of its culture as a cornerstone for sustainable development.
Starting at the Heritage Capital of Rwanda, Nyanza. Pre-colonization, Nyanza was the capital of the Rwandan Kingdom. Today the government has injected resources to steadily transform Nyanza into the cultural hub of the country. Here we find amazing architectural structures maintained as they were pre-colonization. The most significant is the King’s palace where you can step back in time and marvel at the architecture and craftsmanship used while constructing this grass-thatched structure. Learn more about the past kings and the culture and traditions that were carried out around the King’s palace.
The royalty of the Rwandan kingdom were mainly pastoralists who treasured their amazing long-horned Ankole cattle. It’s no surprise they had to innovate and ensure that their cattle were well catered for. This saw the construction of the Icyuzi cya Nyamagama, a man-made lake built during King Mutara III Rudahigwa after a hard famine that hit the region. This was to cater for both the people and livestock. There were also some amazing salt wells, Amariba ya Mutende. They were so popular because the milk that the cows produced after taking this salty water was so delicious and became famous around the region. Other cultural attractions in Nyanza include the Ku Bigega, Christ Roi Church, Mu Gakenyeri Kwa Musinga palace, and one of the oldest and best entertainers the Isonga Cultural troupe.
Around Rwanda other places where you can enjoy the rich cultural heritage include the Kigali Cultural Village. This is a hub where local artisans come together to trade in their local merchandise and food. It’s also an amazing place where creative workshops, events, performances, and festivals are held so you can have a taste of the fusion of modern culture with traditional Rwandan culture and hospitality.
Other areas of interest also include the Ikerenga Cultural Centre in the North, various rocks, and caves that are of significant cultural importance. These include the Rocks of Ngarama, Rock of Ndaba, Rock of Kamegeri, and Rock of Mashyiga among others. Everywhere you go around Rwanda, you will indulge in the amazing culture and traditions of the Rwandese people as culture is a pillar in their lives to date.
4 Adventure and Sports
Known for its 1000 hills, Rwanda’s landscape makes it a perfect destination for adventure and sports- another unique reason to take a trip to Rwanda. One of Africa’s most celebrated cycling events is the Tour Du Rwanda annual event. Covering 6 cities, and 6 provinces from North, South, East, and West, this 8-day International cycling event draws people from all over the world to compete and enjoy the beauty of the Rwandan landscape. With this amazing cycling event happening annually, cycling is also popular in other areas of the country with trails developed for those who would just like a leisurely cycling safari to the beautiful attractions in the country. Cycling is so popular and the country is making it more popular in Kigali with the amazing Kigali Car Free Days, promoting healthy living and combating climate change!
The Kigali Car Free days are also a perfect time to partake in hiking, another popular adventure sport in Kigali and Rwanda. You can hike the hills around the capital for wonderful viewpoints of this sprawling, rapidly expanding metropolitan city.
Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa which have Certified Hiking Trails all over the country. With amazing different landscapes, hospitable people, diverse cultural attractions, delectable cuisine, traditions, customs, and attractions to see in each region. Amazing trails have been mapped out with lots of activities that can be combined with hiking and accommodation to suit every pocket.
The trails too are designed to suit every level of hiking challenge you prefer. The more challenging trails are found on the majestic Virunga Volcanoes which range from 2,400 – 4,507 meters above sea level. You can enjoy immersing yourself purely into nature with the amazing Albertine rainforest species of flora and fauna to marvel at. Birdwatchers, butterfly lovers, primate lovers, and nature lovers will love the healing effects of hiking in these elevated jungles. Other trails include the Nyanza trails for cultural immersion, the Akagera trails to explore the Rwandan Savana diversity, and the Nyugwe Forest trails with the famous picturesque and breathtaking Canopy Walk Suspension bridge. This is an adventure you don’t want to miss when you take a trip to Rwanda.
Other sports to enjoy include football, golfing, horse riding, sport fishing, jet skiing, kayaking, canoeing, and swimming in the refreshing pools and crater lakes around the country.